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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Birthday Tribute to My Dad

Today is my dad's 59th birthday. Last Sunday, my mom threw him a huge and wonderful 60th birthday party. (60 is his Chinese age). At that party, my sisters and brother presented dad with a video presentation featuring a slideshow of his life. As an accompaniment to the pictures, Joy read this essay that I had written for him. My dad was very moved by the presentation and so I thought it would make a wonderful tribute to him to post it here on my blog.

Throughout life, we are blessed through our encounters with special and significant people. It is thru these people that our lives are enriched and inspired. While many of us never get the opportunity to thank these special people or to let them know how wonderful they are, tonight, we are fortunate to have the chance to do that to one very special person. To someone known as “husband”, “son”, “brother”, “boss” and “friend”. To someone we are honored to call “dad”.

My father was born to a family that struggled to keep financially afloat. The son of Chinese immigrants, my father was the eldest of 5 children. He was a talkative, active child. One who enjoyed listening to the radio and reading books. He received his grade school and high school education from San Beda College. There he excelled in academics and extra curricular activities. But aside from honors, he was notoriously known as the “Babbling Brook” and the “Son of Thunder”, the young man who because of his talkativeness was responsible for angering the librarian, not once but twice, causing the school library to shut down for the day.

Early on, my father displayed a very strong work ethic. While many kids played games and watched movies after classes, my dad sold cigarettes in front of a movie theatre, helping his family make ends meet. In his college years at De la Salle University, he worked in the insurance company my angkong had started and while taking the bus to school, would read the assigned chapters for his classes. But, through it all, my father had a pleasant childhood and fond memories. Unlike many others who had to live in those circumstances, my father made the best of things and worked at keeping his dream of a better future.

In 1968, my father graduated magna cum laude. He garnered the highest honors while working full time and against the odds of being with wealthier cohorts who had everything money could buy. Deciding to further pursue a master's degree was another of my father's accomplishments. He was a man who believed in the value of education and who was not afraid of hard work.

In truth, my father was not a perfect man. He had a great fear of speaking in front of a crowd. Some might say that with all that he has accomplished, this was an insignificant fear. Something to overlook. But not to my father. He set about conquering that fear by becoming an economics professor at a well known university for women. Not only did he have to face speaking with groups of students, but women at that. This shows my father having the inherent ability to stand up to his fears in times of adversity and uncertainty.

In 1972, my father accomplished his greatest feat and the one act he should be most proud of, he married my mother. This was the result of my dad’s perseverance and dedication. While my mom was in Ohio getting her Masters Degree, my father persistently wrote her a love letter every day for two years. That’s a lot of letters especially when you think about the fact that this was before emails and text messaging! Their wedding was a small and intimate affair. But it has lasted and has become a strong and beautiful marriage. 33 years and counting. But what’s even more amazing is I have never seen the two of them fight or exchange harsh words towards each other. It is a marriage of respect and love and commitment. My mother has been extremely supportive and has cared for my father in the most amazing way. She is the one that grounds him and is his symbolic beacon to which he finds his way home.

In 1973, my parents were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Jenny. Who despite her handicap has become a strong, beautiful and intelligent young woman. In 1975, I came along, and despite the many headaches I caused my parents, I’d like to think I’ve redeemed myself a little bit especially with this wonderful essay. In 1978, Jules was born. Finally, a son to carry out the family name. It was indeed a blessing. It was icing on the cake that my brother turned out hard working, kind hearted and a good son. Our family was complete. Or so we thought. Six years later, my parents were blessed again … and again … Along came Jim and Joy, our youngest, the twins who could not be more different in physical appearance and temperament. Jim, strong, brilliant, silent and blessed with a big heart. And Joy, sweet, charming, playful and a fashionista too! Their arrival rounded out the 7 J’s.

While raising a family, my dad was slowly building a company. He worked hard and grew the business to what it is today. My dad is a brilliant man, astute in business and sharp with investments, but more than that, my dad is a good businessman and a generous boss. His employees’ loyalty is testament to that fact. In the insurance and finance world, my father is respected and looked up to by many. It’s not surprising that several people have called him a up and coming “taipan”.

My father has been a supportive father for as long as I can remember. Although he has probably never changed a diaper or got up in the middle of the night to burp us. I do recall bedtime stories, carnival trips, swimming in Alabang, watching movies, and bookstore shopping sprees. We were never spoiled with all the things money could buy but we grew up never lacking in encouragement, understanding, and love.

My dad worked hard to meet our needs and to give in to our requests. I know this for fact because my dad worked hard to give me my one and only request for my graduation. Despite his greatest fear – his 30+ year fear of flying – he overcame his trauma and his inhibitions and got up the nerve to fly to the States. He not only came for my graduation but was present to give me away at my wedding last Dec. 2004. That is a testament to my father’s deep love for all of us. And because he has conquered that fear, we have enjoyed several grand reunions in the last 2 years and are looking to many, many more.

My father is an exceptional person, a brilliant business man, a loving husband, a wonderful dad, a good son and brother, a dependable friend. Thank you for joining us here tonight to celebrate his 60th birthday and hopefully we’ll see you all as we gather to celebrate many more birthdays of his to come. Happy Birthday, dad, we love you very, very much.

P.S. Sorry we couldn't be there, dad. Maybe next year? :)


jol said...

I consider this essay very touching as it was written by my daughter. It will not move me to tears of happiness if it was written by a third party. And to convince everyone that I had no part in this essay, I wish to bring up some little mistakes:
1. Graduated from college 1967 not 1968
2. Married for 34 years and not 33
3. Jenny was born in 1972 not 1973 4. I sold cigarettes in front of a drug store and not a movie house
5. The school library was closed because of my excessive talking while I was in college, not high school.
I am a bit embarassed with the praises in this blog but at the same time, I am proud of my humble beginnings. Thank you Judy, Jennifer, Joanne, Jules, Jim, Joy and Jojo for making me a complete person.

jml said...

You were sorely missed at the birthday celebration. Your and your sibling's tribute of a video and audio presentation was greatly enjoyed by the audience and more improtantly made your dad very very happy and so deeply touched. You cannot imagine how proud and happy all of you have made your dad.

Joanne said...

I am thrilled that the video presentation turned out so well and that it was so special for dad. Joy deserves the most praise for putting it together, though.

Also, I am sorry we missed the big day. But we'll definitely make up for it next year when you come over and we can celebrate dad's REAL 60th birthday together!

joyeee said...

awwww..... Dad was truly touched by this essay dets!:) He liked it a lot and I can say the guests were admiring it as well. After the whole video presentation, everyone was inspired with dad's story. ( considering the fact that dad even blew them away with his exceptional speech!) it was a truly great party.... we'll celebrate it there soon!:) take care always
P.S. hmm.. dad's comment was a bit funny.. on how he corrected a few minor details don't you think?:) truly, dad's got a great memory!!!

Auntie Alice (Chua Caedo) said...

Your esaay was very well written. We were honored to be part of your dad's 60th birthday celebration and we thank him and your mom for their friendship.

We missed you there.

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